Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Daily Grind

There are times when I wonder if today will be the day that my life changes. It seems as if the last few thousand days have been preparation for something. Most days I move through the matter of caring for three children and too many animals on autopilot, doing what needs to be done. I pick up the stray laundry, the cheerios hiding in the kitchen corner, the twisty-tie the vacuum spit back out. I do this because there is no one else. It’s not that there is no one else capable of doing the things I do, certainly there are plenty of bodies and minds in this household who know they can do anything better than I. No, it is simply that there is no one else who will do it. The raisin smashed on the floor under the chair, the dog toy lodged between the mission table and the wall, the toilet paper roll spinning empty on the hanger, these things are not visible to the average resident of this household. They do not matter. 

And yet they do. 

Without a keeper of the mess, the chaos would suck us all under. Our collective disorder would make us grumpy, accusatory, overwhelmed. Or maybe that’s only my overly inflated need to justify my days. All I know is that when everything is in order, those rare moments that last only until 3:24pm when my freshly educated spawn blast back through the door, those are moments of contentment. But it is a hollow and lonely satisfaction, remarked on by no one, not even the cat. We sit together silently, me with my tea, and her with her superiority. I feel calm. 

And then the chaos ensues and there are papers to sign, stories to listen to, arguments to settle, and emotions to sidestep. Dinner is prepared, animals are fed, dishes are done, children are deposited and retrieved from practice or lessons or meetings, clothes are pulled off the line and folded, phone calls returned, my day winds down. Every now and again, I pause. I wonder if this is really me. Wasn’t I meant for bigger things?  

There are days when it is all I can do to put one foot in front of another. The bus is missed, the team not made, the child not chosen and I fear I will run out of caring. But I don’t. Somehow the well grows deeper. I can’t ever be sick or take a risk without a cushion because too much depends on me. There is some comfort in dependence. It’s pretty thin. And I don’t do all this with expectations of the reward to come. I know that life is tenuous and all manner of ills can conspire against this little boat. If today is not reward enough, what is the point? 

We say our grace and I silently count my blessings. Oh, I know I am drowning in them. My life is good and full and so privileged. How dare I wish for more? I just keep doing what needs to be done. But secretly, my heart does wonder if that next phone call or e-mail will change everything. If I keep working, keep writing, keep spending my emotional energies on the people and tasks before me, if then, just maybe, something will come of it. 

The hours spent cleaning spaces and things that will be uncleaned momentarily cannot be returned. The emotion expended on children, who do not register or necessarily appreciate my worries, is spent. I do the work that no one else has time or desire to do. I keep doing what needs to be done to carry this life, and all the lives that depend on it, forward.  

On my quiet morning runs in near darkness, I have space to wonder. After I mentally sift through all my plans and worries for the day, I sometimes imagine a bigger life. A life of a famous author, a rich lottery winner, a sought after celebrity. But then I get back home and someone asks me to cut the crusts off his sandwiches and sign the homework planner and I realize that I am already one rich and lucky mama who is a sought after celebrity in her own world.

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